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FocusFirst screens dozens of students

Adam Greene

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Children up to five years old in low-income daycares were screened and treated for vision problems this summer by dozens of UA students who volunteered with FocusFirst, an initiative of Impact Alabama.

Sponsored by the Center for Ethics & Social Responsibility at the University of Alabama, FocusFirst sends 2,300 college students from more than 23 colleges statewide to provide quality care to children, regardless of the income of their family.

This year, volunteering college students screened more than 33,000 children.

Stephen Black, the founder and president of FocusFirst, said his goal was not only to help kids, but also the students administering the help.

“I thought this would be such a great source, because not only can our college students and staff screen thousands of kids, but it is also a really valuable experience for our college students,” Black said.

Tayla Sumbler, a junior majoring in general health, volunteered for four months last season and plans to contribute again this year.

“I think this program is pretty amazing,” Sumbler said. “I’m from Houston, Texas, and there isn’t anything of this nature out there for children in our school system.”

Impact Alabama Program Development Coordinator Addie Mancuso said increasing awareness of and interest in the program has sparked growth in participation.

“I attribute [the growth of the program] to FocusFirst’s increasing recognition across the state, as well as the increasing number of dedicated volunteers and work studies participants who are involved,” Mancuso said.

Since FocusFirst began in 2004, over 155,000 children have been screened. Approximately 11 percent of the children fail the screening and as a result, receive free follow-up care.

“The screenings numbers are taking off like a wildfire, and it’s going to continue to grow,” Sumblee said.

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Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894
FocusFirst screens dozens of students